Diagnostic imaging plays an essential role in the accurate diagnosis of a variety of conditions in our equine patients. With our state-of-the-art 3 meter endoscope, we are able to obtain images and samples that help us more accurately diagnose and treat many disorders. Endoscopy allows us to assess conditions affecting the equine upper airway, guttural pouches, lungs, stomach, and bladder. Many of these disorders affect both comfort and performance in our equine athletes.
You may be wondering, “how will I know my horse needs scoping”
Here are a few scenarios that may be indications for endoscopic examination:
- Gastric Ulcers:
There are many ways that horses show pain from gastric ulcers. Often, affected horses may be unwilling to move forward under saddle, are sensitive to tightening the girth, or resent grooming near the heart, girth, and belly. They frequently also will eat small amounts of feed, walk away, or lie down and then come back to eat more, appearing uncomfortable right after they eat. Horses with gastric ulcers may have decreased overall performance, chronic weight loss, and may appear generally unthrifty.
Many factors can lead to horses choking, including eating too fast, eating dry grain, or not chewing enough. Once a bolus of feed material becomes stuck in the esophagus it continues to absorb saliva and form a hard mass that cannot move. Signs of choking include standing with the head and neck outstretched, excessive coughing, and mucous/feed material coming from the nostrils immediately following eating. Horses that are choking also will stand with their elbows out as if they are having trouble breathing. Once a choke is resolved (either on its own or with the help of your Veterinarian), there will be an area of the esophagus that is inflamed and may scar and form a stricture (narrow section) which can predispose them to choking again without specific management changes. By scoping your horse’s esophagus following resolution of a choke, we can make sure that we see these areas of stricture before they become a problem. Another major problem following choke is aspiration pneumonia. By scoping your horse after an episode of choke we quickly can decide if your horse needs antibiotics because of the presence of feed material in their trachea and airways.
- Guttural Pouches:
The guttural pouches are part of the equine eustachian tubes (inner ear). Many important anatomical structures are found in these pouches including the carotid artery and several cranial nerves. Fungal infections within the guttural pouches can lead to rupture of the carotid artery as the fungus grows through the wall of the artery if left untreated. Bacterial infections within the pouches can lead to respiratory infections that never seem to fully improve with regular antibiotic therapy. By scoping the guttural pouches we can detect these types of infections earlier and take appropriate samples to help determine the most effective treatment.
- Upper Airway Conditions:
Many abnormalities can affect the equine upper airways including laryngeal hemiplegia (“roaring”), dorsal displacement of the soft palate, epiglottic cysts and epiglottic entrapment. These abnormalities can negatively impact a horse’s endurance and overall performance and often go undiagnosed. By identifying these abnormalities sooner we can extend your horse’s performance life and comfort through early intervention. Some signs of upper airway abnormalities include exercise intolerance or poor performance, increased noise during or after exercise, cough, nasal discharge or headshaking.
- EIPH “Bleeders”:
Bleeding from the nose following strenuous exercise is a distinct sign of Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH). To decrease the likelihood and frequency of bleeding following exercise in affected horses, an underlying cause should be identified and treated. This often means that scoping the airways in combination with a rebreathing exam and bacterial cultures can help us more effectively treat your horse.
Our endoscope is portable, which allows us to perform these procedures both in the clinic and in the field. The portable wireless monitor allows us to view and save images instantly. This means that the images also are readily available for our clients to keep!
Dr. Reynolds Gray